Across the globe, we have seen first-hand how girls are empowered by our resources and opportunities to change the world around them. Girls and young women are out there making a difference, from raising awareness on HIV and AIDS in Bangladesh, and influencing decision makers on the global development agenda in Liberia, to projects to get girls back in school in Zambia.
Advocating on a global stage
WAGGGS’ visibility and recognition in the global arena as experts on girls’ and young women’s empowerment, non-formal education and the sustainable agenda in general has been steadily increasing. Every year since 2009, we have taken a youth delegation to the UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) to lobby international decision-makers on behalf of girls and young women worldwide. At the COP, our youth delegates develop campaign messages, organize side events and workshops, speak at important panels, talk to media and work with other youth organizations on running campaign actions. It is due to their efforts that we produced Guidelines for WAGGGS Members to promote non-formal climate change education to decision-makers – a toolkit for campaigning on non-formal education in the climate change negotiations, which is a popular tool among other youth organizations.
At the 18th session of the Conference of Parties on Climate Change (2012) in Doha, the WAGGGS delegation played a crucial role in formulating Article 6, the part of the Convention which deals with education, training and public awareness. WAGGGS’ delegates made up 75% of the working group on the Article.
Mirna Fernandez from Bolivia shares her story of empowerment after participating in COP and other global advocacy opportunities
“WAGGGS changes lives through advocacy by putting girls and young women at the heart of the discussions that will affect their own future. My experience on environmental advocacy with WAGGGS gave me the essential tools to understand and influence key global challenges towards sustainability and gave me the strength to motivate more young people at the local and global level as a Girl Guide leader, a youth representative and as a university professor."
Speaking out on girls’ rights – A testimony from Hannah Stanton, Sweden
To join the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was not only an amazing learning experience in itself, it has also lead to continuing my journey not only with WAGGGS but with different external partners. After participating in CSW 58 in 2014, I was invited to join the German Government delegation for CSW 59 the following year. I have since had the honour to not only find support in achieving my action plan as part of CSW but also been called in as an expert to panels, most recently at the Swedish Politics Week (Almedalen) together with the minister for gender equality Åsa Regnér and as moderator for a session in parliament with the Executive Director for UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ncugka.
Almedalen is the most important event in Swedish politics, where all decision makers from all three sectors meet, discuss and form future decisions. In the panel session I was part of, I was introduced as the main advocate for girls' rights in Sweden and as a representative of WAGGGS was part of the session as a key speaker.
This advocate role and public speaking engagements are certainly based on my proven skills during CSW. A personal highlight is the fact that I am still in touch with the government delegation I was part of at CSW59 and continue our efforts with them to get girls off the sidelines and to the tables to influence decisions about to be made that effects them.
Stop the Violence campaign: from a whisper to a shout; from speaking out to membership growth, visibility and partnerships
We launched our first global advocacy campaign, Stop the Violence – Speak out for girls’ rights in 2011. Four years later we see remarkable progress. From a whisper to a shout we now have more than 50 of our Member Organizations delivering campaigns in their own countries.
Rwandan Girl Guides have been working on the ground to eliminate violence against girls and women over many decades and have contributed significant expertise and thought leadership into our global campaign. Pascaline from Rwanda Girl Guides shares their success story: “Advocacy is one of the most important works initiated by WAGGGS to equip Member Organizations with resources and to enable members to develop their fullest potential. The Stop the Violence campaign has been an evidence of what we do and what we can do. It helped us win countless partnerships as we also operate at the grassroots level. It greatly reinforced our visibility and trust in the community, and therefore it has put us at the heart of other girl serving organizations in Rwanda. We proudly grew our membership at 9 per cent due to this campaign only.”
Girl Guides of Sri Lanka have been another champion of the campaign in another part of the world. With Chamathya Fernando – a young woman who participated in CSW 57 in 2013 – spearheading the campaign, Sri Lankan Girl Guides have positioned themselves as the leading expert on girls in Sri Lanka. They have organized marches and parades in the city centre, tying them into efforts and publicity around International Day of the Girl. Chamathya launched a campaign called ‘Letters to Fathers’ where young Girl Guides and Girl Scouts wrote letters to their fathers explaining what it is like to be a girl and asking for their support in tackling gender inequality. These letters highlighting the importance of meeting girls’ needs and expectations were presented to ministers. For International Day of the Girl 2014, Sri Lankan Girl Guides held a joint workshop with the United States embassy in Sri Lanka themed "Empowering Adolescent Girls; Ending the Cycle of Violence".
The real testament of the important work that we do are the testimonies from our partners:
"Young women and girls are a creative and energetic resource that must be cultivated and nourished. The work of WAGGGS in engaging young women and girls in advocacy is important, as it fosters a true sense of empowerment. It allows young women and girls to become agents of change who will have significant impacts on their society for current and future generations and who can help pave the way for young women and girls everywhere to reach their full potential." - Ahmad Alhendawi, United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth